Last Updated on October 21, 2017 by

This is the second edition of our photography series: My first post explained the basic elements of photography: exposure, aperture and shutter speed; in this second post, I want to talk about photo composition, which is probably the most important aspect of a good picture. Sometimes the beauty of a picture is not what you are shooting, but how you present it. Here are 5 rules worth remembering when taking your camera out:

1. Less is More

One common mistake when framing a picture is including too many elements in it. Before you take a photo, think of what your subject is and make it stand out. Anything in the picture accompanying the subject could distract the viewers attention away from it. If you are unsure of whether you should include something in a picture, your best bet is to leave it out.

One exercise that I like to practise is to use a teletype lens or to go really close to what I want to photograph. This way, the narrower frame forces me to choose details that I find interesting and leave everything else out of the picture.


2. Rule of Thirds

It’s not possible to talk about photo composition without mentioning the rule of thirds. This rule has been used for centuries not only in photography but also in all other kinds of two-dimensional art. The idea behind this technique is that a picture looks more interesting if the point (or points) of interest is positioned over one of the four intersection points formed by dividing the picture into nine equal segments. Most cameras offer a visual aid to help you apply this rule by overlaying a grid over the image (usually on “live view” mode for DSLRs). If your camera doesn’t have this option or you prefer to use the visor, the visor’s focus points can also be of help.

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So next time you are taking a shot, instead of placing your subject in the center of the frame, try to remember this rule and play around with the composition. Another great use of the rule of thirds is with landscape shots, which usually look more pleasant to the eye when the horizon is aligned with one of the horizontal lines of the grid.

Rule of Thirds, Depth

3. Framing

Framing is a technique that you can use to put more emphasis in your subject and make it stand out. Anything can be used as a frame for your photographs, from an open window to a narrow valley or a hole on a tree. The resulting image will be more focused and it will naturally draw the attention to the point of interest.

Natural Frame

4. Repetitive Elements

There is something intrinsically interesting about repetitive elements in pictures that make them a great subject for shots anywhere in the world. Some say they give the observer a sense of union and companionship. From the pebbles on a beach to a row of Buddha statues in a temple in Burma, these elements can be found literally anywhere so make sure to look around you and let your creative side flow.

Repetitive Elements

5. Play with the Lines

Lines have a vital role to play in photography. There is no better way to control the flow of the image, guiding the observer’s gaze to the points of interest, than using lines. There are many kinds of lines that you can use when shooting: the convergence lines of a narrow street as they disappear into the horizon, the zigzag lines formed by a winding road on the wide countryside, the light trails of a car that swoops by at night…

In most cases, some of these lines will disappear out of the picture. I often find that by making these lines disappear on the corners of the picture, they have a stronger impact on the image.

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Dissapearing Lines

These are just a few composition rules that can help you take better pictures but there are plenty more that you should consider studying. Feel free to discuss any other rule you know in the comment section below.

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